Gardening in the South (cont)
By: Felder Rushing
Ogden has also been trying to get us to experiment with mesclun, the mixed salad greens concept. But this idea we aren't completely sold on yet. We don't have the space or time to mess around with weird things we don't eat. In addition to unusual lettuces, Ogden recommends radicchio, dandelion and arugula (which some say tastes like Colt 45 malt liquor -- tangy and bitter. Who needs that in a salad?).
Still, we are in an experimental mode these days, so for every two or three little rows of our familiar, sweet lettuces (including the colorful kinds), we have planted a strip of mesclun. Slowly, our southern palates may adapt. We've already adjusted to eating fat buds of orange daylilies (better tasting and more nutritious than broccoli, and a heck of a lot easier to grow), Johnny-jump-up flowers, salad burnet and hot peppers.
Ed Nichols, a market farmer who grows salad greens, fresh herbs and edible flowers near Canton, Mississippi, came up with a simple twist on Ogden's method. Nichols sows tiny pinches of seeds of mixed greens in cell packs of potting soil, and when they come up, he plugs them directly into the garden on 8- or 10-inch centers. Each clump quickly becomes a little salad, "Mississippi mesclun," ready to be cut and served. We adopted this idea this year, too. So far it works well and looks good. And it's something even the children can do, start to finish.
We're learning to garden year-round down here. Conjuring up spare gardening energy in midsummer is a challenge. These little salad successions are one way to make it fun and improve our diet, a row or two at a time.
Photo by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association